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UK to pay Mau Mau tortured victims $30 million

From CNN
Kenyan Government officials celebrating
Kenyan Government officials celebrating

Decades after they endured torture, thousands of Kenyan freedom fighters will get compensation from the UK government, potentially opening the floodgates for colonial-era claims from other former British colonies.

The British government apologized for the human rights violations and announced about £19.9 million ($30 million) in settlement Thursday after years of litigation between the two sides.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said the government "sincerely regrets" the torture of Mau Mau fighters as the government settled a long-running lawsuit from elderly victims.

"This is part of a process of reconciliation," Hague said.
Survivors who suffered castration, rape, beatings and detention in prison camps and other torture have sought compensation for the colonial-era injustices.

Plaintiffs provided evidence of torture, and the amount of payout will be based on the scale, according to Donald Rabala, an attorney representing some of the veterans.

The abuse occurred between 1952 and 1961, when fighters from the Mau Mau movement battled British forces for land and freedom. Colonial forces killed thousands of fighters and detained others, including Kenyans who were not part of the rebel group.

Kenya went on to gain independence from Britain in 1963.

Secret files

For three years, the Mau Mau veterans' lawsuits faced resistance from Britain, which said the statue of limitations had expired. It asked the judge to throw out the case on the grounds that it transferred all liability to Kenya when the country gained independence.

But new details emerged after a huge cache of secret files was declassified relating to British administration in 37 colonies. Britain kept an immaculate, handwritten record that included some of the human rights violations.

In October, the London high court ruled that three Kenyans tortured during the colonial rebellion can sue the United Kingdom for compensation.

The three, who filed a lawsuit that prompted thousands others to join, are among the group that will be compensated.

The three plaintiffs said they endured torture at the hands of British forces, including castration, brutal beatings and detention.

After the ruling last year, thousands of miles away in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, jubilant colonial-era fighters, balancing on walking sticks, gingerly danced.

Others prayed and wept.

"It's a great day. I am as happy as the day I was released" from the detention camp, said Wambugu Wa Nyingi, one of the three. "We believe that they (the UK) will do the right thing, now that they have accepted that it's the truth."

Who are the Mau Mau?

The Mau Mau nationalist movement comprised the Kikuyu, the largest tribe in Kenya. Its members were against British domination and fought colonial forces.

During the uprising, as many as 150,000 Kenyans were incarcerated in what was then British East Africa, accused of joining resistance movements started by marginalized tribes.

Among them were many ordinary citizens, including U.S. President Barack Obama's grandfather.

Obama referred to his grandfather's incarceration in his memoir "Dreams from My Father," writing that Hussein Onyango Obama, who fought with the British Army during World War II, was held for six months, but found innocent.


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